About this poet

Marcus Wicker is the author of Silencer (Mariner Books, 2017) and Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, 2012), which won the National Poetry Series and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Poetry Foundation. Wicker is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review, and he teaches at the University of Memphis.

Watch Us Elocute

June 18, 2015
 
So I’m at this party, right. Low lights, champagne, Michael
Bublé & a gang of loafers I’m forever dancing around
 
in unduly charged conversations, your favorite
accompanist—Bill Evans behind Miles, ever present
 
in few strokes—when, into the room walks
this potentially well-meaning Waspy woman obviously
 
from Connecticut-money, boasting an extensive background
in nonprofit arts management. & without much coaxing
 
from me, really, none at all, she whoops, Gosh, you’re just
so well spoken! & I’m like, Duh, Son. So then we both
 
clink glasses, drink to whatever that was. Naturally,
not till the next morning & from under a scalding
 
shower do I shout: Yes, ma’am. Some of us does talk good!
to no one in particular but the drain holes. No one
 
but the off-white tile grout, the loofah’s yellow pores.
Because I come from a long braid of dangerous men
 
who learned to talk their way out of small compartments.
My own Spartan walls lined with their faces—Ellison
 
& Ellington. Langston, Robeson. Frederick Douglass
above the bench press in the gym, but to no avail—
 
Without fail, when I’m at the Cross Eyed Cricket
(That’s a real diner. It’s in Indiana.) & some pimple-
 
face ginger waiter lingers nervous & doth protest
too much, it’s always Sir, you ever been told you sound like
 
Bryant Gumbel? Which is cute. Because he’s probably
ten. But then sometimes I sit in his twin’s section, & he
 
once predicted I could do a really wicked impression
of Wayne Brady. I know for a fact his name is Jim.
 
I’ve got Jim’s eighteenth birthday blazed on my bedside
calendar. It reads: Ass whippin’. Twelve a.m.—& like
 
actually, that woman from the bimonthly
CV-building gala can kick rocks. Because she’s old
 
enough to be my mother, & educated, if only
by her own appraisal, but boy. Dear boys. Sweet
 
freckled What’s-His-Face & Dipshit Jim,
we can still be play friends. Your folks didn’t explain
 
I’d take your trinket praise as teeny blade—
a trillionth micro-aggression, against & beneath
 
my skin. Little buddies, that sore’s on me.
I know what you mean. That I must seem, “safe.”
 
But let’s get this straight. Let’s call a spade a—
Poor choice of words. Ali, I might not
 
be. Though, at the very least, a heavyweight
throwback: Nat King Cole singing silky
 
& subliminal about the unforgettable model
minority. NBC believed N at & his eloquence
 
could single-handedly defeat Jim Crow.
Fact: They were wrong. Of this I know
 
& not because they canceled his show
in ’57 after one season, citing insufficient
 
sponsorship. Or because, in 1948,
the KKK flamed a cross on his LA lawn.
 
But because yesterday, literally yesterday,
some simple American citizen—throwback
 
supremacist Straight Outta Birmingham, 1963—
aimed his .45 & emptied the life from nine
 
black believers at an AME church in Charleston.
Among them a pastor-senator, an elderly tenor,
 
beloved librarian, a barber with a business degree
who adored his mom & wrote poems about
 
the same age as me. I’m sorry. No, friends.
None of us is safe.
 

From Silencer (Mariner Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Marcus Wicker. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

From Silencer (Mariner Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Marcus Wicker. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Marcus Wicker

Marcus Wicker

Marcus Wicker is the author of Silencer (Mariner Books, 2017). He teaches at the University of Memphis.

by this poet

poem
So what if it is?
Clear days, I understand it,
molecules scatter azure
 
light from an in-his-feelings-
sun,  that’s why
the sky is blue. We know
 
too much, or want to.
Not the Bible, but the i-
Phone tells us so
poem
Too late—the path to righteousness gone cold
& everywhere a forked tongue, split road
                                                                dividing line—
toward, away, toward—the divine, unraveling like anise, black
poem

I was a real cute kid. Ask anybody. My father
likes to tell a story about a modeling scout

who spotted us out midday shopping
at the Briarwood Mall. Imagine five-year-old me,

all sailor stripes & junior afro, doing a full pull-up
on the magazine kiosk: Got any Keats? No doubt

2